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Senate Minutes: There’s a lot to consider

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When we talk about the issues that come before us at the state Capitol, there’s a lot to consider.  What kind of input have I received from the people I represent?  Is this going to be beneficial to them and the state in the years to come?  What are other states doing, and what does the research tell us about the problem and possible solutions?

Oklahoma Senator AJ Griffin

Oklahoma Senator AJ Griffin

These are all important, critical questions to ask, but it is crucial to remember this key factor—ultimately everything we do as legislators will impact people in our state.  The public policy issues and budget decisions aren’t just about statistics, studies and polls.  I have been very blessed in that many of the most challenging issues I’ve attempted to address in the Senate have brought me face to face with some of the Oklahomans who have been profoundly impacted by these things.  They understand better than anyone the need for addressing very serious concerns with thoughtful and meaningful legislative action.  Prescription drug abuse is one such issue.

Anyone that reads a newspaper, or watches the evening news has undoubtedly heard the alarming statistics year after year—that by 2013, there were more drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma than fatal vehicle crashes, and that most overdose deaths were from drugs prescribed by doctors, not “street” drugs, like heroin or meth.

But when you meet people like Gail and Craig Box, that entire issue and all the statistics and studies that go with it take on an entirely different meaning.  Their son, Austin, was a handsome 22-year-old OU linebacker whose life was tragically cut short because of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.  After his death they said there was no greater pain than the loss of a child, but that the pain worse because they knew it could have been prevented.

Since then they’ve worked to educate people about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, and they’ve lobbied for legislative action as well.  That’s how I came to know Gail and Craig, and I’ve worked with them to try to reverse Oklahoma’s prescription drug epidemic.

This year I was principal Senate author of legislation that we have been working diligently to get all the way through the legislative process.  We were successful, and the measure became the first bill signed into law during the 2015 legislative session.

The legislation is an effort to combat “Doctor shopping.”  A patient goes to multiple physicians to get several prescriptions to feed their addiction.  Many of these individuals lose their lives to those same drugs.

This new law will require doctors to check a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) database before writing prescriptions for potentially dangerous and addictive drugs, like oxycodone.  The hope is that by having doctors check the PMP, it will make it more difficult for patients to get multiple prescriptions for these dangerous prescription drugs.

There is more to be done in our state and throughout the nation as we attempt to better address prescription drug abuse.  But this is an important step, and I thank people like Gail and Craig who have chosen to channel their pain into helping us fight to keep other families from experiencing their tragedy.

As always, please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at griffin@oksenate.gov.

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